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US State Department identifies ‘rapidly growing and troubling trend’ of forced labor linked to cyber scams

<i>Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>The US State Department identified a “rapidly growing and troubling trend” of “forced labor as a result of cyber scam operations
Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
The US State Department identified a “rapidly growing and troubling trend” of “forced labor as a result of cyber scam operations

By Jennifer Hansler, CNN

(CNN) — The US State Department identified a “rapidly growing and troubling trend” of “forced labor as a result of cyber scam operations,” as it launched its annual human trafficking report, US Ambassador at Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Cindy Dyer said Thursday.

“Traffickers have leveraged pandemic-related economic hardships, increased global youth unemployment, and international travel restrictions to exploit thousands of adults and children in a multi-billion dollar industry over the last two years in these schemes,” she said at a State Department briefing.

Dyer said that “many people have responded to job offers for what they think are legitimate work in it in casinos, or other seemingly legitimate businesses.”

“Often these individuals are forced to participate in cyber-scams under impossible quota arrangements that make them increasingly indebted to traffickers. Traffickers use this debt to exploit victims in forced labor and sex trafficking, including in special economic zones, primarily throughout Southeast Asia, but ensnaring nationals from at least 35 countries or territories,” she said.

The 2023 report also highlights the fact that men and boys can be victims in trafficking, but may not always be recognized as such and may not get access to the same services.

The 2023 report, which covers the period of April 1, 2022 through March 31, 2023, identified which governments around the world are meeting the minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which have improved or deteriorated, and which have failed in their efforts to combat human trafficking and are not making an effort to do so.

Many of the countries in the Tier 3 category for failing to meet the minimum standards to combat human trafficking and “not making significant efforts to do so,” were in that category last year as well. This year’s list has 24 countries in Tier 3, including Russia, China, Afghanistan, Syria, and North Korea.

Afghanistan, Burma, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Russia, South Sudan, Syria, and Turkmenistan were listed as having a “‘government policy or pattern’ of human trafficking, human trafficking in government-funded programs, forced labor in government-affiliated medical services or other sectors, sexual slavery in government camps, or the employment or recruitment of child soldiers.”

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